When and How to Wash Your Hands

New Patient Appointments

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For children: 888-733-4662


It is very important to practice good hand washing habits to prevent the spread of viruses, particularly around fellow patients who have weakened immune systems. Indirect, contaminated touch is a significant method of virus transmission, including influenza. While the flu shot is the first line of defense against the flu, hand washing is an easy step we can all take to prevent the spread of germs.

Clean hands are particularly important at Dana-Farber, where patients, visitors, clinicians, and staff are in close proximity, and the person who touches a doorknob after you might be a cancer patient.

When should you wash your hands?

  • Whenever they are visibly soiled.
  • Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • When you interact with others, use the bathroom, prepare food, blow your nose, cough, or sneeze.

To help prevent the spread of the flu and any virus ...

Follow these simple hand washing steps:

  1. Wet your hands with warm water and apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together vigorously for 10 seconds to create a good lather, paying special attention to nail beds, the back of the hands, thumbs, and the areas between your fingers.
  3. Continue rubbing hands together for 10 seconds while rinsing – you can sing the "Happy Birthday" song in your head while you do this.
  4. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel or dryer. When possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door to avoid any germs that may linger on these public surfaces.

Once your hands are clean, take advantage of the many antibacterial hand sanitizer stations placed throughout the Institute to kill any germs that may be left behind. You can also use antibacterial hand sanitizer in lieu of hand washing when necessary, provided your hands are not visibly soiled.

If you have a fever during flu season, please stay home. If you must come to the Institute while you or your child is ill with flu-like symptoms, ask a staff member for a surgical mask to wear in clinical areas, and for a private room. Following these simple steps will help give you, fellow patients, visitors, clinicians, and everyone at Dana-Farber a better chance of avoiding the flu and other illnesses.